Epiphany and Epiphanies

If we delve into the etymology of the word “Epiphany” we discover that it actually means “manifestation” (as well as “revelation” or “realization”) (1). In the Western Christian tradition, yesterday we commemorated the Magi’s adoration of Baby Jesus, the feast day also marking His first public appearance. As the Gospel According to St Matthew recounts, not trusting King Herod, afterwards the Three Kings returned to their own countries via another route. The decision was not without consequences: on one hand there was the Massacre of the Innocents, on the other the Flight into Egypt. Tomorrow would have been David Bowie’s birthday (2) and, in three days time, it’s also the anniversary of his death; in the accompanying booklet to one of his last albums (Heathen, 2002), (3) the pop star leaves us a ‘cameo’: Guido Reni’s painting The Massacre of the Innocents which today hangs at the Pinacoteca in Bologna. From the year zero, via the 17th century, the blood-curdling episode has ended up inside a pop album. If we move just a little southwards, to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, on a canvas painted in the same century we can see the Holy Family taking a rest during the flight into Egypt and doing their laundry: they’re all busy, including Joseph, in this other ‘snapshot’ of those times.

Epiphany, therefore, in the sense of alternative manifestations that unexpectedly pop up in non-religious ambits, or which can be viewed from secular perspectives, even within the ‘halos’ of our own homes. We like to think of the word’s multiple meanings as being as imaginative as a pair of mismatched socks


San Raimondo